While AstraZeneca plc gets credit for transparency in publishing its metrics on R&D productivity, the data cover well-established targets addressed by conventional modalities. The more telling test for its “5R framework” will be whether it can accelerate development in white space areas with novel biology.
AstraZeneca’s analysis, published last month in Nature Reviews Drug Discovery, follows up on a 2014 analysis in the same journal in which the company took stock of pipeline failures from 2005-2010. Compared with industry averages, AstraZeneca was bringing more compounds into late stage development, but they were failing at a higher rate due primarily to insufficient safety, target validation, proof of target engagement or patient stratification.
AstraZeneca designed a framework to identify and advance programs designed to get five factors “right:” the target, the tissue where the target is engaged, safety, the patient population and the commercial potential. It began implementing the framework throughout its R&D in 2012.
Now the company has reported readouts for the framework, showing it boosted the rate of projects progressing from candidate nomination to Phase III completion to 19% between 2012-2016, up from 4% between 2005-2010. Since implementing the framework, AstraZeneca also shrunk program costs and cycle times, expanded its work on patient stratification and companion diagnostics, and shifted compound attrition further upstream in the R&D process.
The authors highlighted specific methods for target discovery, compound screening, in vivo assessment, toxicity testing and patient selection that they believe drove the productivity jump.
Mene Pangalos, lead author and EVP of AstraZeneca’s Innovative Medicines